Since 2010, Apple has seen tremendous success after the corporation released it’s first iPad tablet, launching a new market and being the trendsetter in a new line of mobile technology products. As recent as 2016, Apple’s global market share has reached 25 percent for tablets, leading Samsung by approximately 10 percent. It’s clear that this market has seen tremendous growth and application in the past 7 years—Apple sold more than 40 million iPads alone in 2016. However, what we’re looking at is largely representative of the consumer market for tablets and not the industrial market. It’s likely the case that an industrial company settled on Apple products for mobile productivity in the past, but there’s an important financial factor that’s hard to see on a day-to-day basis; the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an estimation of expenses related with buying, deploying, using, and then retiring of a piece of equipment or product. Industrial companies focus a lot on TCO, but consumer grade tablets aren’t best in the long run for industrial companies. Generally the TCO for a tough tablet is lower (better) since they last longer. Here’s an in-depth look at why.
Tough Industrial Tablets Utilize a Hot Swappable Battery
If you’ve ever tried to remove the internal battery for a tablet, it was probably a frustrating and educational experience. Most tablets are sealed, so battery removable and replacement either requires someone who has experience getting into the innards of a tablet, a trustworthy individual with a steady set of hands who can learn quickly, or device shipment to the manufacturer who can replace the battery if the tablet is within warranty. If it’s not within warranty, expect to pay around 100 USD for a battery replacement and a turnaround time of 3-5 days with no promise of restoring all the previous data. If you’d prefer to remove and replace the battery yourself, kits often cost around as much as a manufacturer’s price for a battery replacement anyhow. That’s not a strong outlook for a business, especially if the tablets have no backstock, leaving at least one employee with no way to be productive. Or, you could just swap out the removable battery on the tough tablet instead and resume productivity. Not only does this removable battery functionality affect TCO greatly, it prevents production downtime. Plus, if a battery doesn’t hold a charge, others are available to purchase. The hot swappable battery function justifies the cost alone. It can take productivity from a few hours to a full work shift—or more, depending on how many people on different shifts use one tablet. One tough tablet with three batteries can be used continuously over the course of an entire day instead of three separate tablets in use, each potentially lasting the time span of a shift and then stored away to charge. Again, industrial tablets have a lower TCO.
Tough Tablets Need Tough Glass, and More
Some tablets use Corning’s Gorilla Glass, an alkali-aluminosilicate sheet of glass that is highly resistant to scratches, direct damage, and drops. Gorilla Glass has become a staple in tough tablet and smartphone manufacturing, but it’s not indestructible and a lot of videos have surfaced online demonstrating it can shatter if a tablet is dropped in sensitive areas—usually a corner. Industrial tablets are known to use Gorilla Glass and often have housings to protect the corners, which iPads and other consumer-grade tablets lack. Sure, a CFO can get protective cases for tablets too, but a rugged case can hit the wallet at about 80 USD—another cost consideration when going with consumer tablets. Why buy more when an industrial tablet comes with the protection? The last accidental drop a warehouse needs is one that shatters the glass on a tablet, potentially rendering the device useless. Tough tablets are built to withstand shocks and vibrations.
Tablets Tend to Bend
A quick search online reveals that consumer tablets aren’t the most resilient to warping. Some have actually shipped bent in the past, and others warp so much the glass actually shatters. Couple that in an industrial warehouse with temperature changes—not a favorable result. Even aluminum and stainless steel are known to warp a few microns because of temperature changes in machine shops, so we’ve come to expect sheets of silicon, aluminum, and glass to do the same. Industrial tablets are built to withstand temperature changes, vibrations, shocks, and accidental damage, extending their life beyond what a consumer would expect. Built with industrial-grade components, these tough tablets have a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) timespan of six years. Consider that the original iPad released in 2010—several models of the iPad have been released between then and 2017, suggesting that one industrial tablet will last longer than several iPad generations. Again, lower TCO for the industrial tablet.
Capacitive is Great Technology—but Not For Industrial Tablets
Working in a warehouse often requires gloves—regular gloves, unless you buy capacitive-knit gloves (which are expensive and don’t provide much protection), don’t work on capacitive screens. Capacitive technology uses the electrical charge from our hands to actually register a change in voltage, thus changing the elements on screen. With a gloved hand, the electrical charge doesn’t register. Consumer grade tablets usually use capacitive screens, so a gloved hand won’t work. Industrial tablets use resistive screens so a gloved input can actually register. Sure, employees can take off their gloves and work with a tablet screen, but that’s quite a tedious annoyance.
These reasons clearly outline why tough tablets are the best choice for an industrial setting. Consumer grade tablets warp easier, batteries aren’t easily replaceable, gloved hands can’t interact with their screens, operational life is shorter, and there’s a higher TCO. Consider that the MTBF for an industrial tablet is longer than the lifespan for several generations of iPads and other tablets! You don’t want your employees to suffer productivity downtime over charging batteries or sending a broken tablet off to a manufacturer over one drop—unless you prefer spending more money over time.